Emulator Day was a Saturday. February 2, 2002 arrived less than 90 days after HP cut short the lifespan of the HP 3000 hardware. On that Saturday, Robert Boers of Software Resources International announced a prototyping project.
We are currently building a prototype HP 3000e emulator, capable of running unmodified MPE and its applications on a Windows platform. Note that this is an A/D project only, we have made no decision yet about making it a product.
Boers was leading the company that would later become Stromasys after a name change. On that Saturday in 2002 he noted, “It is correct that we did not get much response about my note about hardware emulation. Our experience with the VAX and PDP-11 emulators is that the concept is often confused with operating system emulation, and the assumption is that recompiling would be necessary, or that not all applications will run.
“The hardware emulators we build are operating system-independent. The demo we use to show the concept is to unplug a SCSI system disk from a VAX, plug it into a SCSI port of a PC, and boot VMS (or another VAX operating system) from it. We do not need to convert the binary VAX code in any way or form. Performance is not an issue, we have reached VAX 7000 Dhrystone performance on a PC.
“The emulator engine we use is likely flexible enough for the HP3000 hardware (we use the same for PDP-11 and VAX). The core VAX emulator prototype (CPU, memory, disks) took less than four months to develop.
“It took us about a year to convince Compaq to support their software on our VAX emulator as they would any other VAX,” Boers added. “We did that by passing their VAX hardware diagnostics and architecture tests. They now offer very reasonably-priced OpenVMS transfer licenses.”
At the time, Compaq was the owner of the DEC lineup. Later that owner became HP. But the vendor grappled with the concept of MPE transfer licenses without a released emulator in the 3000 marketplace. Charon did emerge, after a long delay in HP related to sharing 3000 boot-up secrets. The emulator made its debut about 10 years after Emulator Day. HP’s deadline for issuing new MPE licenses tied to an emulator had already passed. Charon for PA-RISC would be limited to the 3000s remaining inside customer datacenters.
OpenVMS customers have fared better on emulator licensing. In fact, the OpenVMS options are so wide that a third party recently took over the hobbyist-grade licenses for the OS. That same third party, VSI, can make new licenses for OpenVMS, too.